Month: March 2019

What Should I Expect at my Initial Divorce Consultation in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

What is the Purpose of the Initial Divorce Consultation?

After having made the difficult decision to contact an attorney regarding divorce and after making an appointment to meet with him or her, it is natural to feel apprehensive or to be unsure of what to expect at that initial meeting.  Most Fairfield County divorce clients have many questions about the divorce process, possible outcomes, and how Connecticut law applies to his or her case.  Those are all appropriate issues to be discussed in an initial consultation.  One of the primary purposes of the initial divorce consultation, in addition to information gathering, is for the potential client and the potential lawyer to meet in order to determine whether both the client and the lawyer are comfortable working together.  As a client, it is important to feel that you can trust your divorce attorney and that there is good communication between you and your divorce attorney.  The initial consultation is a good opportunity for both the lawyer and client to assess whether they can have a good working relationship during a sometimes difficult process.  

What Do I Need to Bring with Me to My First Meeting with a Potential Divorce Lawyer?

Among other things, it is important for a divorce attorney to have as much information as possible so that he or she can accurately evaluate the case and give the appropriate advice.  Of course, if you were the person served with divorce papers, you should bring those papers to the initial consult so that the attorney can review them and explain them to you.  At the first meeting with a divorce lawyer, however, it is not required that you bring any other documents with you.  The divorce attorney will listen to you and ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the basic facts of the case.  There will be plenty of time after the initial consultation for you to provide relevant documentation to your lawyer.  While you do not need to bring documents with you to the initial consult, there are some documents that you can bring to make the meeting more productive.  For example, if there is a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement in your case, you should bring a copy of that to the meeting.  Most top Fairfield County divorce attorneys will even ask to see the document in advance of the meeting so that he or she can review it beforehand.  Some people also like to bring relevant financial documentation to the meeting, such as tax returns and bank and brokerage accounts, so that specific financial questions they have can be addressed.

Is What I Discuss at My Initial Divorce Consultation Confidential?

The short answer to this question is: yes.  The information you provide to a potential divorce lawyer, even if you do not hire that person, is kept confidential.  Keep in mind, however, the caveat discussed below.

Should I Bring My Friend (or Family Member) to the Initial Consultation Meeting?

It is normal for people to want emotional support at an initial divorce consultation.  If a third party is present in a meeting between a potential client and a lawyer, that presence can jeopardize the confidentiality of the meeting, as confidentiality and attorney-client privilege typically only extend to the potential client.  If you deem it critical to bring a friend or family member with you to the initial consultation, you can discuss how to handle it with the potential divorce lawyer with whom you are meeting.  You and the divorce attorney may decide to have the friend or family member wait in the reception area during all or part of the meeting in order to protect the information discussed.

What are the General Topics Discussed during the Initial Consult?

In general terms, the best initial consultations cover the following topics, as applicable to the facts of your case: the divorce process in Connecticut, custody of minor children and parenting plans, discovery of relevant information during the divorce, division of assets and liabilities, and alimony and child support.  Top Fairfield County attorneys will also discuss with you strategy concerns and any other issues that may be particular to your case.  In order for the divorce lawyer to give you good advice, he or she will ask many questions, ranging from basic to very personal.  The more information you provide, the more you and a potential divorce attorney can begin crafting a timeline and strategy for your case.

What Questions Should I Ask at the Initial Divorce Consultation?

There is no question too insignificant for an initial divorce consult.  A good divorce attorney will want you to feel comfortable that your questions have been answered and will welcome any and all questions that you have.  There is very little that experienced divorce attorneys have not heard or been asked; so, do not be shy about sharing information or asking questions.  Beyond the typical questions about the divorce process, how long divorces in Connecticut typically last, and what to expect with respect to parenting and finances, you should also ask questions about the financial relationship between you and the potential lawyer.  You will want to know the attorney’s hourly rate, requested retainer or other fee arrangements, and how frequently you will receive invoices reflecting time spent on your case.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we pride ourselves on our informative initial consultations, which typically initiate an effective attorney-client relationship that lasts throughout the case.  We strive to advise potential clients in a forthright manner so that they feel comfortable about what to expect from the divorce process in Connecticut and so that they understand their options moving forward.

Living Arrangements During a Divorce: Who Stays in the House?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Connecticut law protects each party’s right to live in the martial home during a divorce.
  • You cannot deny your spouse continued use of the marital home without an agreement or Court order.
  • The Court has the authority to give exclusive use of the marital home to either party if warranted.
  • It usually does not harm your case if you voluntarily move out of the house.

Who Gets to Live in the Marital Home During a Divorce?

In Connecticut, both parties are entitled to live in the marital home during the divorce action, unless there is an agreement or Court order stipulating otherwise. If the parties cannot live together, but cannot agree on who should leave, the Court has the authority to order exclusive use of the family home to one party, regardless of how the property is titled. The decision of who lives in the house during the divorce may come down to two main factors: first, what is most practical for your family; and second, the family’s financial circumstances. Sometimes, divorcing couples opt for a “bird nesting” arrangement whereby the children stay in the marital home and the parents rotate in and out. One party leaves the marital home when it is the other party’s turn to reside there, and vice versa.

Can I Change the Locks on my House During the Divorce?

In Connecticut, there are automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) which provide that if you are living together with your spouse on the date that the divorce action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the residence. For this reason, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to changing the locks on the marital home. 

Will it hurt my Case if I Move out of the Marital Home? 

Divorce can be a contentious, emotional time for families. You may want to live separately but are afraid that you will be accused of abandoning your family or you may be concerned that it will hurt your divorce case in some other way.

Under most circumstances, it does not hurt your divorce case to voluntarily move out of the marital home—specifically, if it is done in order to alleviate stress or tension within the home, especially when there are minor children involved.  In fact, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-83 provide that if one of parent leaves the family home voluntarily during the case and leaving is in the best interests of the child, the Court may consider that fact in making or modifying custody orders.

How Do I Get a Court Order for Exclusive Occupancy?

If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive use of your marital residence, you can file a Motion for Exclusive Possession with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.  This type of Motion is typically only filed in extreme circumstances.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in securing exclusive possession for our clients, defending against such claims, and in the alternative, helping to devise living arrangements during the divorce that will meet our clients’ specific needs.

Can I Date While Going Through My Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

Is a Person Allowed to Date While Going through a Divorce?

Yes. There is no restriction against dating. In fact, it can often relieve the daily stress of the divorce process. However, as explained below, there are some important things to keep in mind if you decide to date while going through your divorce.

Can I buy Gifts for My Girlfriend/Boyfriend during my Divorce?

If a party purchases gifts for a girlfriend or boyfriend during the divorce process in the state of Connecticut, the Court could consider the expenditure(s) a dissipation of marital assets and allow the other party to receive a credit for such expenditure(s) at the time of dissolution.

Can I Introduce My Girlfriend/Boyfriend to my Children During the Divorce?

While there is no absolute restriction in Connecticut against doing so, it is highly advisable that a party does not take this step unless and until there is consent from the other party and/or it is done with the assistance of a therapist. Sharing this information with a 5-year-old is obviously different than sharing it with a 10-year-old or even a 15-year-old. Accordingly, we strongly suggest that you receive the proper advice before introducing your girlfriend/boyfriend to your children during a divorce.

Can I Remarry After my Divorce? If so, how soon Thereafter?

Yes, this is actually a more common question than people realize.  You may do so the next day.

Should I Wait to Date Until my Divorce is Final?

This is entirely an individual question and one must determine if he/she is emotionally ready. One reason to avoid dating is because if your spouse finds out, it may cause jealousy. This jealousy may manifest itself in a more aggressive and litigious approach, which may make it more difficult in trying to reach a resolution.

Do I Want my Spouse to Date During the Divorce?

The answer is often yes.  Many clients have said that the best thing that happened during the divorce was that their spouse started dating, because it kept him/her more grounded and calm throughout the process.

At Broder & Orland LLC we often discuss the pros and cons and the possible outcomes and issues that a party, and more importantly, his/her child(ren) may face as a result of dating during the divorce process.

The Financial Cost of Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

What will my Divorce Cost?

The short answer is that it is hard to know at the outset what a divorce will eventually cost.  Since virtually all divorce lawyers in Connecticut bill on an hourly rate, the cost is a function of time spent on the case. At Broder & Orland LLC, we have handled divorces ranging in cost from a few thousand to millions of dollars.

Is Cost Related to the Complexity of the Case? 

Not necessarily. Some of the more financially complex cases settle quickly when the parties, their counsel, and experts are sophisticated and are financially savvy. These cases sometimes involve a variety of compensation components, including for example, stock options, RSUs, SARs, phantom stock, and deferred compensation. While this can initially appear daunting, it doesn’t have to be if the parties are well-educated about income variants.

Will the Cost of my Divorce be Minimal if our Assets are Very Modest? 

We would hope so and at our firm we strive to make it cost-effective for our clients in every case. Unfortunately, different pressures can arise when the marital estate is relatively modest and there isn’t enough money for both parties to live their lives post-divorce in the manner they were doing so during their marriage. In these cases particularly, it is imperative to do a cost-benefit analysis and to be real about the results. 

Will Children’s Issues Increase the Cost of Divorce?

Quite possibly. It is in everyone’s best interest to settle on a realistic Parenting Plan as early as possible in the case. If that doesn’t happen, the Court will sometimes appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) as an investigatory arm of the Court whose role it is to report on the best interests of the children, or Attorney for Minor Children (AMC), who will act as an advocate for the children taking into consideration their best interests. The cost of these additional individuals will be borne by the marital estate and having them involved typically signals additional litigation and therefore, higher cost. 

What Other Factors can drive up the Costs of a Divorce? 

Divorce costs may spiral upward for many reasons, for example: one or both parties may not be cooperative in the discovery process or have unrealistic expectations.  Attorneys and clients may not be in sync about objectives and goals. The Court system is fraught with inherent delays and continuances mean more time and more money. 

What can I do to keep my Divorce Costs from Getting out of Control?

  • Hire a reputable and knowledgeable attorney.
  • Make sure you are always on the same page as to how your case is being handled.
  • Settle the kids’ issues as soon as possible. Attend to discovery deadlines.
  • If finances are complex, make sure to assemble a good team of experts who can educate you about the various components. In short, demystify the finances so you can move forward to settlement.
  • Be reasonable in negotiations with your spouse even if there are bad feelings, as is typically the case in divorces.
  • Pay attention to your monthly bills and your retainer status.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, we strive to make our clients’ divorce cases cost efficient, whether the case involves a modest marital estate or is a high net-worth or high-income earner matter. We constantly counsel our clients on the cost-benefit of decisions as the case progresses. Our goal is to achieve for our clients the best possible outcome at the most reasonable cost.